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Cablegate: Asean Wildlife Network Scores with African Ivory Bust

VZCZCXRO3836
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #2963/01 3241047
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201047Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9027
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7715
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0505
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 7535
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0329
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0338
RUEHOR/AMEMBASSY GABORONE 0214
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0067
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0521
RHHMUNS/COMSOCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002963

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

EAP FOR AWYCKOFF; OES FOR CDAWSON, HSUMMERS; USAID EGAT FOR JWILSON,
MMELNYK; MTS/MLS FOR DESKOFFS; INTERIOR FOR USFWS; USDA FOR USFS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAID TH
SUBJECT: ASEAN WILDLIFE NETWORK SCORES WITH AFRICAN IVORY BUST

REF: Kathmandu 1002

1. (U) Summary: In an important step forward against wildlife
trafficking, the Royal Thai Police arrested two ivory traffickers on
November 16 in Bangkok. The arrests came after a year-long joint
investigation involving U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Royal
Thai Police and the USG-supported ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network
(ASEAN WEN). While there has been a string of impressive seizures
of ivory products, these are the first arrests of major traffickers
in Thailand, a key transit country for wildlife trafficking. The
ring involved importation of African elephant ivory into Thailand,
then shipment on to the U.S. Through USG-supported law enforcement
training events, ASEAN WEN has built a network of law enforcement
officers and built capacity throughout the region. Post welcomes
OES programming plans that increases cooperation between regional
drug and wildlife trafficking programs, and seeks to link and South
and Southeast Asian wildlife trafficking efforts. END SUMMARY.


THE BUST - IVORY FROM AFRICA TO THAILAND TO THE U.S.
--------------------------------------------- -------
2. (SBU) ASEAN WEN has been behind a series of recent seizures
involving cooperative law enforcement among Thailand, Malaysia,
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. African Ivory trade (internationally
banned since 1989) has increasingly involved SE Asia. In 2008, Thai
Customs seized two tons of African elephant ivory, Philippines
Customs seized 3.5 tons (from Tanzania) and Vietnam Customs seized
over 8 tons. As with many illegal trafficking industries, seizures
and low level arrests have historically proven easier than capturing
the kingpins. This year, however, there were notable arrests in
Vietnam, Indonesia and now in Thailand. On November 16, the Royal
Thai police arrested Thai operators of a ring smuggling African
tusks and carved ivory from Thailand to the U.S. The arrests
attracted extensive print, television and web media coverage.
Forensic testing of ivory purchases made from the suspects showed
that the ivory was of African elephant origin. The investigation
involved cooperation among the Royal Thai Police, Customs and the
Attorney General, and on the U.S. side the Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement Customs and Border
Protection. USAID supported the travel of a Royal Thai Police
officer and an interpreter to the United States to interview
witnesses with USFWS special agents. Law enforcement investigations
into the U.S. connection are ongoing.

WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING AND ASEAN WEN
----------------------------------
3. (U) Wildlife trafficking is often described as the (even if
distant) third greatest illegal trade after arms and drugs; the
global wildlife market is estimated to be worth $10 to 30 billion
annually. Southeast Asia's high species biodiversity has made the
region a prime source for trafficking wildlife -largely to China for
medicinal purposes and to the U.S. for collectors. Some ASEAN
nations are source countries, such as Indonesia, the Philippines,
Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia; some are transit countries such
as Thailand and Singapore. In addition to biodiversity loss, as
traffickers target the most endangered species, trafficking brings
invasive species into the U.S. (such as the plague of Burmese
Pythons in the Everglades) and undermines law enforcement generally
as criminal gangs organize across borders. After ASEAN nations
agreed to launch ASEAN WEN, Thailand took the lead in 2006 by
hosting ASEAN WEN headquarters with help from a State/OES grant.
USAID Regional Development Mission Asia now supports the ASEAN WEN
secretariat through the Freeland Foundation.

POLICE NETWORKING AND U.S. SPECIAL AGENTS
-----------------------------------------
4. (U) The Thai arrests were the culmination of unprecedented joint
U.S./ASEAN WEN/Freeland and Thai collaboration. USAID-supported
Freeland has conducted numerous training workshops for law
enforcement and protected area officers over the past year,
including a joint Thai/Laotian training course that included forest
police observers from two Indian states. In January, ASEAN law
enforcement officials joined a networking workshop at the
International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok. Former

BANGKOK 00002963 002 OF 002


U.S. Special Agents working for Freeland trained ASEAN officers,
with the help of INTERPOL officials. At this ILEA course, police
officers shared intelligence on leads and developed communication
protocols and other tools. This networking led to successful
seizures throughout the year in a number of the countries. In
addition, a parallel organization, the NGO Wildlife Enforcement
Network (ENV), got started with an EAP/OES small environmental
grant. NGO ENV publishes a newsletter to connect NGO conservation
data and field knowledge of trafficking patterns to the police.

THE NEXT LEVEL - GLOBAL WEN
---------------------------
5. (U) As an organization, ASEAN WEN is still developing and needs
to migrate to a system less dependent on USG assistance. The WEN
may nevertheless provide a useful model for other regions and for
global networking. Post sees as useful a planned OES grant will to
connect the Wildlife Enforcement Networks of South Asia (a major
source for trafficking via SE Asia to China) and the Americas with
ASEAN WEN to help to connect South and Southeast Asian law
enforcement entities; there have been demonstrated trafficking
patterns from South to Southeast Asia and to China. Freeland
Foundation has already been successful in gaining the interest of
Indian state enforcement officials to observe ASEAN WEN training.
The Nepalese Environment Ministry has just agreed to host South Asia
WEN and has asked Freeland to organize donor support. The Thai
Environment Minister and ASEAN-WEN are now working with the World
Bank's Global Tiger Initiative, and after the successful Kathmandu
meeting (Reftel), Thailand will host a Ministerial on Tiger
conservation and trafficking in January 2010.

6. (U) Comment: As the home to ILEA, the regional INPERPOL office,
and a host of regional law enforcement attaches, Bangkok is uniquely
positioned to be the locus for anti-trafficking efforts in this part
of the world. In addition to providing support for ASEAN-WEN, the
Embassy is working to enlist Thailand in the Coalition Against
Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), which works to galvanize global support
to combat trafficking. Several EAP ESTH officers have been active
in working with OES, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and USTR in
outreach for the 2008 Lacey Act Amendments and to engage ASEAN
nations to work with us in combating both plant and animal
trafficking. The World Wildlife Fund is also active in supporting
Thailand's national network with training and collaboration with the
Royal Thai Police and Military. Other ASEAN members have national
WEN in various stages of development with encouragement from NGOs
and DOS ESTHoffs at posts. Post views favorably an ongoing OES
grant to UN Office of Drug Control to integrate ASEAN WEN successes
with UNODC's Border Liaison Posts to help deter all transnational
illegal trafficking.

POINTS OF CONTACT
-----------------
8. (U) For press releases and background information on ASEAN WEN
and RDMA's Wildlife programs, visit www.asean-wen.org;
www.freeland.org; and www.usaid.gov/rdma. The NGO Wildlife network
can be viewed at www.env.org. Points of contact are Hal Howard,
Regional ESTH Hub officer, howardhh@state.gov and Winston Bowman,
Director of RDMA Environmental Office, wbowman@usaid.gov.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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